Fernando Alonso: The prodigal son is set to return
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Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso is heading back to Renault on a two-year contract.

The 26-year-old Spaniard announced his return to the French team after a turbulent season at McLaren.

At Renault in 2005, Alonso became the youngest driver in F1 history to win the title. He repeated in 2006.

"I am delighted to be returning to Renault," Alonso said via a statement.

"This is the team where I grew up as a driver in Formula One. Now it is time for us to begin a new chapter together."

Renault said that Alonso would drive along with Nelson Piquet Jr.

The duo will make their debut testing the new R28 car at Valencia from January 22-24.

"Fernando and Nelsinho will form one of the most exciting driver lineup of 2008," Renault managing director Flavio Briatore said.

"We are delighted to be welcoming Fernando back home to the team where he enjoyed his greatest success. His abilities as a driver and a team leader are well known, and we look forward to forging another strong partnership."

Spanish media reported that Alonso would earn $51.3 million per season, though Renault would not confirm the figure.

Alonso had been linked with a return to Renault ever since he was released from his three-year contract with McLaren in November.

Holiday

A move to the French team gained momentum Friday when FIA decided against penalising Renault for possessing confidential information about rival team McLaren.

"To be honest, the first three weeks of November, I was on a much needed vacation and during which I disconnected from Formula One," Alonso said.

"The decision to choose a team did not take more than a week, as me and the people close to me were clear about what we wanted."

Alonso dismissed talk that he could have taken a year sabbatical, preferring patience while dissecting all of the possible options.

"It would have never come to me not having a drive for next season," Alonso said.

"We are talking about a very important decision and since I could not get back at the wheel of a car until January or February, there was no rush."

Alonso finished third in the 2007 drivers' standings with 109 points, though his season is better remembered by rocky relations with rookie driving partner Lewis Hamilton and a spy scandal that cost McLaren $147 million and all of its constructors' championship points.

Renault finished third in the constructors' championship in 2007 with 51 points, 153 behind champion Ferrari.

Alonso made his F1 debut in 2001 with Minardi and spent three years at Renault from 2003-06. In 105 races, he won 19 and finished on the podium 49 times.

Giancarlo Fisichella and Heiki Kovalainen drove for Renault in 2007.

"Renault had a difficult year in 2007, but I know that the team has real strength in depth," Alonso said.

"I am confident they can produce a fast and competitive car and be back at the top in 2008."

Source: Agencies